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Tell Me The Truth

Stockton Wolves #5

By Lisa Oliver









Copyright 2017 by Lisa Oliver

All Rights Reserved

Smashwords Edition

Tell Me The Truth (Stockton Wolves #5)
Copyright Lisa Oliver, 2017
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Cover Design by Lisa Oliver

Cover Model – Philippe – courtesy of Paul Henry Serres Photography. License PL_118

Background – Dreamstime.com

First Edition April 2017

All rights reserved under the International and Pan-American Conventions. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying, recording or by any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author, Lisa Oliver. Yoursintuitively@gmail.com

No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded or distributed via the internet or any other means, electronic or print, without permission from Lisa Oliver. Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000. Please purchase only authorized electronic or print editions and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted material. Your support of the author’s rights and livelihood is appreciated.

Tell Me The Truth is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

Authors note: I do hope the residents of Contra Costa County will forgive me for purloining Mt. Diablo for my story. I am well aware that lovely area isn’t under Stockton jurisdiction however the place worked well for my story so I introduced a bit of fictitious license. You can read about the great work the Save Mt. Diablo organization have done here - http://www.savemountdiablo.org/index.html. It is a truly wonderful example of what people can do in saving large chunks of the American Wildlife.

In the meantime, enjoy my parallel universe version of Stockton, where shifters are real and if you spot a dark shape in the clouds it’s likely to be one of them.

Table of Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Epilogue

Other Books By Lisa Oliver

About the Author

Dedication

It has been a rough month for me, but my readers have been a huge support – your reviews, pictures, comments, emails and messages make me smile every day and I can’t thank you enough

To Judy, for keeping me on my toes

To Phil, for feeding my muse

To Mary, for showering me with inspiration

And a special thank you to Leah and Torhild who stepped in when I thought having a Facebook pack was a good idea – Torhild for setting it up for me, and Leah for updating all my cover and character pictures.

Chapter One

Special Agent Niclas Rhion Draig, commonly known as Nico wrenched the tie from his neck and slung it over the nearest dining chair. He could feel his fury burning like molten lava in his veins. “Why would he lie to me?” He yelled at the unresponsive kitchen counter. “He has to feel the mating pull. He wasn’t surprised when I used the fucking word. Who’s he fucking protecting and why?”

The granite counter mocked him with its silence. Thumping it hard enough to feel the bones in his pinky crack, Nico ignored the swell of pain in his knuckles and strode over to the fridge. Pulling the door open, he sullenly inspected the contents. It didn’t take long. Half a limp lettuce and a carton of takeout were all that greeted him. Slamming the door hard enough to make the whole appliance wobble, Nico pulled out his phone. Fucking pizza again, he thought angrily. He was sick to death of pizza but buying groceries was still on his to-do list.

His phone rang as he finished placing his order – two large meat lovers and no damn anchovies. Jack’s name blazed across the screen. Letting out a long breath, Nico accepted the call. “Yep.” He wandered into his new living room. The plastic on his couch squished as he sat down.

“Where have you been all day?” Jack demanded. “I was waiting in the field office for freaking hours, but when I headed over to the precinct they said you’d been and gone.”

“I was chasing leads, lost track of time,” Nico said thinking quickly.

“Well, unless you’ve got a concrete handle on who’s responsible for these killings, then drop it,” Jack said. “Sara rang. Boss man wants us in his office Monday morning, nine o’clock sharp. We’ve got another case.”

SHIT. Not now. “Er…yeah, about that. I have to put in for some extended leave. I’ve got some family matters to straighten out. You’ll have to take this next one solo.” Nico winced even though he knew Jack couldn’t see him. He hated lying and liars with a passion.

“Family matters?” Jack sounded concerned. “Your family lives in some unpronounceable place in Europe. How long are you going to be out of the country?”

“I’m not leaving town.” This is why Nico didn’t lie. He wasn’t good at it. He could say he was flying out but he was too well known around town and word would get back to Jack if he was seen and there’d be hell to pay. “I just need time off from the job. The time difference makes it hard to keep up with phone calls and shit.”

Jack laughed, and Nico remembered a time, not that long ago when that sound could harden his balls in ten seconds flat. “Your family contacts you whenever they feel like it and don’t give a shit about the time difference.” Jack’s voice lowered and Nico’s heart sank. “Come on Nico. What’s going on? You’ve been weird since we took this case. You haven’t even invited me to your new house yet and what was the guff about that anyway? You have a lovely place in Roseville. Why the sudden change?”

“It was a good deal,” Nico said weakly. Truth be told, Nico didn’t even look at the deal. As soon as he’d scented Captain Anthony Reynolds in the Stockton precinct, he’d hit the first real estate office he found and laid out a large wad of cash for the biggest estate they had on their books. His animal half was annoyed no castles were on offer but was slightly mollified by the mansion he was rattling around in. Half the furnishings were still in plastic wrap because Nico ordered it all online.

“I’ll judge that for myself,” Jack laughed again. “Text me the address; I just have to shower and I’ll be over in an hour. It’s Friday night and I’ve been looking forward to getting my hands on your cock for two long weeks. We might have been busy with this thankless case last weekend, but now we’ve been pulled off by the boss, there’s nothing stopping us having some fun for the next forty-eight hours.”

Nico groaned. If Jack did as he intended, hell, what he’d done nearly every Friday night for the past two years, he was going to be sorely disappointed this time. “I have to go out,” he said quickly. “I’ll talk to you later.” Without giving Jack a chance to reply, Nico disconnected the call and turned off his phone. Yes, he’d get a tongue-lashing from his mother later; Jack wasn’t going to be pleased about being fobbed off either.

Tilting his head back on the couch, Nico remembered how easy life had been just two weeks before. He loved his work, had a few friends but it was Jack who shared most of his free time. Special Agent Jack Schubert, his partner at work and his fuck buddy when they were off the clock.

In a lot of ways, Jack was the perfect partner. Human, but Nico didn’t hold that against him. He barely ever associated with other shifters. Jack was fun to be with, good looking in that blond all-American sort of way and most importantly, he was a no-strings-attached sort of guy. They drank together, enjoyed watching the same sports – Jack was easy to be with.

Most importantly, he didn’t push Nico for anything more. They both knew how their relationship, no matter how casual it was, could negatively impact their respective careers. And now I’ve got to call it quits. Nico wasn’t sure how he was going to explain to his longtime friend and partner that their fucking days were over. Hopefully, it wouldn’t impact their working relationship. Although if my mate accepts me, I might not be able to work anymore anyway.

And the possibility his mate wouldn’t accept him was something else Nico had to seriously consider. He groaned and thumped his couch, damn it, my finger hasn’t healed yet. But he welcomed the pain. “How could I be so stupid?” He yelled at the ceiling, which was just as responsive as the kitchen counter.

In hindsight, storming into Captain Reynolds’ office was a dumb thing to do. Telling him they were mates, even stupider. Accusing the man of lying straight to his face? Nico put that blunder down to the sheer frustration of being ignored by the man for two whole weeks.

“Aaargh, someone cut me a break,” the phrase echoing around the huge room.

The incessant peal of the doorbell got him off the couch, but as he picked at his half-cold pizza Nico knew he had some serious thinking to do and maybe it was time to call in a few favors. He’d been focusing too hard on the human aspects of a case that had clearly gone cold.

He needed to find out more about the shifters and vampires in Stockton, and specifically, why the silver fox, Captain Anthony Reynolds was lying about this serial killer case. If his mate was being coerced by paranormals, he was more than happy to flex his muscles and save his mate; especially if it got his hunky mate in his arms sooner than later.

/~/~/~/~/

Captain Anthony Reynolds, Tony to his friends, pushed back his plate with a sigh. “The advice might be a bit thin on the ground, but you certainly know how to whip up a good meal, Trent. Thanks.”

Trent Summers smiled. He’d filled out since he was attacked with a knife months before. He had a relaxed look on his face, the result of being claimed by the enigmatic Alexi and while Tony wasn’t sure he wanted to be around a man who drank blood on a weekly basis, Alexi made Trent happy and Tony could live with that.

“You do realize, this guy, whoever he is; he’s not going to let you go, now he knows you exist,” Alexi said, standing to help Trent clear the plates. Trent’s house was small enough Tony could still talk to them in the kitchen.

“He’s an FBI lead agent. If he knows what’s good for him, he’ll be heading out of town by now.” Tony didn’t let on how much that thought soured the roast he’d enjoyed.

“Is that what’s bothering you, Captain; being partners with a man?” Trent carried in the coffee fixings on a tray. “Come and sit in the living room. It’s a lot more comfortable.”

Tony glanced at his watch. It was only eight thirty. It’d be rude to cut and run so soon after a good meal. He got up reluctantly, the twinge in his back reminding him of another reason he couldn’t have a mate who looked like he was in his mid-twenties. He spent his fiftieth birthday staring down a bottle of whiskey. That was two years ago.

Sinking into a huge easy chair, Tony considered the question. “I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am. I’ve been in the force long enough to know that although there might be anti-discrimination laws in place, they’re not worth the paper they’re printed on for the guys in the field. Shane and Dimitri are lucky. Shane was out from day one, and he took his knocks and built-up a reputation anyone could respect. By the time Dimitri came along, most people didn’t care that they were sleeping together. As for you and Mace,” Tony shrugged. “I know Mace introduced Roan as his partner before he handed in his resignation and you hadn’t met Alexi then, but you guys both have a history with the department. Good history. That does make a difference.”

“Surely you have a similar reputation, sir?” Alexi was always polite but he still had a knack of making Tony feel uncomfortable. He wasn’t sure if it was the thought of fangs, blood drinking or the vampire’s age that skewed things in his mind. Knowing it was vampires responsible for the five murders the FBI were in town investigating didn’t help.

“You would think so,” Tony managed a smile. “But most of my job is kissing up and schmoozing; juggling budgets, keeping the mayor and media happy. Trying to ensure my men are safe on the streets and they’ve got the support they need when things go south. Doing that effectively means I have to maintain a certain image. It got drummed into me when I started rising through the ranks; marriage, two point five children, a picket fence, the whole shebang. I’ve done my best to live up to that.”

“Shit. You're married?” Trent almost dropped his coffee. Alexi’s reflexes saved his pants from a dunking.

Tony looked down at his ringless fingers. “I was back in the day,” he sighed. “That’s when I learned about shifters, funnily enough. I was on vacation with Melissa, my wife. We were expecting our first chiild. There was some trouble at the campgrounds and this huge force of nature in a uniform came in and dealt with it quickly. He took one look at Melissa and I became yesterday’s news. After a crash course in ‘shifters are real and what happens with mates when they scent each other’, I ended up going home alone.”

“Double shit.” That was probably as sympathetic as Alexi could get. Trent looked sad and Tony felt the need to make him feel better.

“It’s okay, the guy she’s mated to treats her like a queen. Robert, my son, is almost thirty now and has two half-brothers. Grant, her mate, was really good about everything. I’ve spent a week every year with them since Robert was born and face it, at the time, I wasn’t spending nearly enough time at home as I should. Melissa and I were more friends than anything else while we were married, and that hasn’t changed.”

“It must have been difficult, not being able to watch your son grow up.” Trent didn’t look convinced so Tony amped his smile wattage.

“Honestly, it’s worked out fine and if I do get a few matrons introducing me to their daughters at these boring social functions I attend as part of my job, it’s not a bad thing. It’s the divorcees you have to watch for.”

“But you’d never consider dating a man,” Alexi pointed out.

“No, and before you get upset, I’m bisexual. Agent Draig’s gender isn’t the issue. But his job is the same as mine. Being together would ruin our careers.”

“Without having met him, it’s hard to know how many careers this man has had,” Alexi said. “I’ve had over a dozen new names, jobs, career paths in my lifetime. If he’s an older shifter, like Dimitri suggested, then his job’s not going to mean squat to him, not when compared to a mate.”

You’ve talked to Shane and Dimitri about this?” Of course, they’d all talk about it. They’re all part of the same fucking pack.

Trent twisted his hands. “I wasn’t breaking your confidence. I didn’t tell them about the mating aspect. But as Alexi said, if Dimitri being an Alpha isn’t comfortable around this guy, then I wanted to know why. Dimitri’s never scented a shifter like him, and neither has Shane. Alexi thought he might know what he was if he met him, but I wanted to talk to you before sending my mate off to find him.”

“Dimitri says his wolf knows this guy is old; old like I am and extremely powerful,” Alexi said, catching Trent’s hands in his. “But the scent; the only way Shane could describe it was the man didn’t smell furry.”

“But he’s definitely a shifter?” Tony was starting to wonder when his life had turned into some sort of circus. It was hard enough accepting the existence of shifters and while Tony got used to the idea over the years, he got a hell of a shock when Alexi turned up. And now there was something else out there masquerading as an FBI officer? Non-furry. What the hell could that mean?

Trent nodded. “It’s freaking Dimitri out. His wolf wants to belly up every time the man comes into the room, and that’s not like him at all. We know he’s not bear or cat shifter. But that’s why D and Shane have been out of the office lately. Without knowing what he is, they’re worried they’ll spill the beans about the case without your permission simply because he orders them to. He is that powerful.”

Tony flung himself back in the chair and rubbed his hand over his hair. “The way I see it, we’re going to have to tell him anyway, at least about the case. Am I pleased I found a mate; yeah within reason. Every time I see Grant and Melissa, or any of you guys for that matter, loving and so in sync, my heart aches to have the same thing in my life. But it will mean the end of my career and Agent Draig’s as well. He might be willing to chuck in his job, but I have eighteen months to go before I can collect a full pension.”

“Depending on what type of shifter he is, he might not be able to wait that long,” Alexi warned.

“Then he’s going to have to learn. At least if I tell him about the case and what happened, he’ll realize I didn’t mean to upset him by lying to him in the first place,” Tony said firmly. His head swimming with possibilities, questions, and concerns, it wasn’t any hardship for him to plead a headache and head for home. Unfortunately, his worries followed him.

Chapter Two

Nico snarled as he wrenched open his door, the early morning sun hitting him in the eyes. “Jack, what the fuck? I told you I was busy,” he snapped at the sight of his partner looking far more attractive than he had a right to be. Nico mentally slapped himself for noticing. But then a person would need to be dead to not notice Jack.

“I can see you haven’t had your coffee yet,” Jack said tartly, his smile not quite hitting his eyes. “Just as well I came prepared.” He shoved a super large travel cup in Nico’s hand and barreled past him into the house. “Phew,” he whistled. “What on earth did this place set you back? It’s got to be worth a small fortune.” He stared at the marble hallway, the giant staircase straight out of Gone with the Wind and the glistening chandelier.

“I told you, I got a good deal,” Nico said ungraciously, herding Jack into the living room, sipping from his cup as he went. Jack, being Jack, immediately made himself at home, slumping on the couch Nico recently vacated, his sneakers a glaring contrast with the top of the finely polished coffee table.

“Talk to me Nico,” Jack said, his eyes narrowing as Nico took a single seat instead of flopping beside him which was his usual practice. “You’ve been acting weird since we met that Captain at the Stockton precinct. I’ll admit he’s hot if you like them with frosting on top, but for goodness sake, he’s probably straight, married with a brood of kids all clamoring for pocket money and use of the family station wagon.” He shuddered, eying Nico over the edge of his cup.

Sighing heavily, Nico took a sip from his own cup, trying to think what to say. Honesty was his favored mode of operation, but…. “I’m not sure we should continue with the personal side of our relationship,” he said vaguely, hoping Jack would catch on quick and be cool about it. He really didn’t want to have this conversation.

“Not be friends? What the fuck Nico, we’ve been best buds for fucking years. What gives?”

“Friends are fine,” Nico said quickly, realizing he’d been too vague. “Friends are good, but no more playing hide the sausage.”

Jack laughed. “I forget you’re not from around here sometimes. Come on, Nico,” he smoothed his free hand over his torso. The pale blue shirt left nothing to the imagination and Nico was affected no matter how much he knew he shouldn’t be. “You’re not making sense. What we have is good. No one knows about it, I understand our shitty hours. It’s not as though I’ve asked to become your roomy or anything, although,” he added looking around at the cavernous living room, “you’ve got plenty of space. I thought we worked well together, in bed and out.”

His gaze was back on Nico; far too knowing for Nico’s liking. Jack was a damn good agent and didn’t miss a trick. “We do, did,” Nico amended. “We can still be friends, but I’m taking time off anyway and I just thought….” Shit, what had he been thinking? It’s not as though he could mention his shifter nature and that was his key reason for turning Jack down.

“Aww,” Jack replaced his sneakers with his coffee cup, standing and covering the distance between them in seconds. He straddled Nico’s legs, his weight warm and familiar. His arms were strong around Nico’s neck, although Nico felt a flush for a totally different reason. His animal half wasn’t happy. “I get we’ve never talked about anything serious,” Jack said, his eyes hot. “Shit, either one of us could be shot tomorrow. But I’m not turning my back on you just because you’re taking a bit of leave and moved to another house. We’re partners, we always will be. I’m serious about you, doofus, didn’t you know that? There hasn’t been anyone else since we hooked up and never will be.”

Jack’s lips were warm and hard on his, the scent of his arousal ticking Nico’s nose. In a way, it was a welcome reprieve; Nico never imagined Jack had feelings for him and didn’t know how to respond. And as the pressure of the kiss intensified, Nico’s brain went on the fritz; he forgot about his silver fox, his unclaimed mate and the fact he’d already decided not to do this anymore. His tongue caressed the inside of Jack’s eager mouth and he moaned, his mind flooded with images of them together. It would be so easy, so familiar…but his animal half had other ideas.

His first warning was the intense heat that grew from his chest, quickly covering his neck and face. Then the ripping sound; fucking hell, my claws are out. Panicked, Nico slammed both hands on Jack’s chest, sending the man flying to the floor. His head slumped, Nico tried to control his breathing and his animal. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Nico looked up to see Jack’s horrified face and then wished he hadn’t as Jack’s face went white. “What the fuck? Those teeth, your eyes and what the….” Jack scrambled to his feet. “What the hell are you? No wait, I don’t want to know, just stay the hell away from me.”

Jack, wait!” Nico groaned as he spied the scales on his arms and across his chest. Damn it. Hundreds of years I’ve walked among humans, none of them ever suspecting and now, all because of my dratted mate…. Tipping his head back, Nico’s roars of frustration followed Jack out of the house.

/~/~/~/~/

Tony hesitated as he got out of his car. The sight of Special Agent Schubert running down the driveway like the hounds of hell were after him was bad enough. The roaring coming from inside the house was another thing entirely. It was an unearthly sound – pure rage and frustration, loud enough to send a shiver down his spine. No wonder Jack was running; Tony was inclined to follow suit.

A mate will never hurt you. Melissa, Grant, Shane, Dimitri, they all said the same thing. Even Alexi lived by the same code, and he couldn’t run on four legs. At least, Tony didn’t think he could but then what he knew about vampires wouldn’t cover a pinhead. Should I? Shouldn’t I? Fuck this. I’m a damn police captain and I’ve dealt with paranormals before. Determined to show no fear, Tony strode towards the open door.

“Hello?” He called out sharply, not seeing anyone in the opulent hallway. Either his mate had deep pockets or was squatting in a high-end vacant house. The roaring seemed to come from the living room and squaring his shoulders, Tony stepped inside, his shoes loud on the marble floor. Peering around the closest door, he was faced with another huge room. But it wasn’t the plush velvet curtains, another chandelier or even the plastic on the furniture that caught Tony’s attention. It was Nico, shirtless, his neck muscles straining as he cursed the ceiling in a guttural language Tony didn’t understand.

Every muscle on Nico’s torso was deeply defined; his face red, his black curls glistening with sweat as they kissed the top of broad shoulders. This was a man deeply tormented; a beautiful man fighting a shift into something decidedly not human. Jet black scales covered Nico’s arms and chest, receding one minute and reappearing the next. Tony had never known his other shifter friends to have so much trouble with their animal half; with the exception of Sin and he’d only heard about that second hand. But this, watching Nico…The man needs help.

Special Agent Draig!” Tony stepped into the room, his heart threatening to break his ribcage. “Nico, calm down; deep breaths.” Huh, who am I kidding? I’m the one who can’t breathe. An indescribable power surged around the room; something that crackled the air and sucked the life right out of it. Despite his fears, Tony moved forward. Never let it be said the mating pull didn’t work both ways; Tony could feel his own inner battle raging – get the fuck out of the room or help the man some power decided he should be bound to for life.

“Nico.” Tony touched Nico’s back, his fingertips burning. “Tell me what’s wrong. Maybe I can help.”

Nico turned, his eyes flaming amber. “You,” he growled and before Tony could blink, a burning sensation wrapped around his back as Nico pulled him into a hug he couldn’t escape. His shirt was torn from his neck and teeth, fucking teeth, pierced his skin where neck met shoulder. Tony’s cock was hard in an instant and spurting his climax less than a minute later as Nico drank from his neck, his other arm slung around Tony’s shoulders as though worried he might slip away.

It’s not as though I’ve got the energy to go anywhere, Tony thought as his body went limp. He was aware of Nico humping him, the cloth-covered lump against his stomach hard to ignore. Nico’s arms tightened even further, and then Tony’s neck was freed as Nico roared at the ceiling again. Even Tony could hear the difference. This wasn’t frustration; this was victory, a celebration, a warning to all others to stay away.

Fucking hell, I’ve been claimed, he thought as he watched Nico’s head slowly come down, amber eyes no longer blazing, but just as intense. What the hell do we do now?

Chapter Three

“I’m sorry.” For his current situation, they had to be the most ineffective words in the history of language, but Nico didn’t know what else to say. He ran his tongue over his teeth to ensure they were no longer threatening. Not that they would be. His darned dragon was preening. They got their man. It didn’t matter that his dreams of claiming included candlelight, soft music and a comfortable bed bought especially for the occasion. Oh no. His dragon didn’t care about any of that. His dragon had simple needs; teeth in the neck, a mouthful of blood. He and the shocked man in front of him were now inextricably mated and nothing, not even death would sever their bond.

“I’m sorry,” he said again, the words sounding just as lame the second time around. “I was upset… Jack… you… you shouldn’t have come close to me.”

“So, our mating, that never-to-be-broken bond treasured by paranormals of all kinds, is my fault?” Tony didn’t look happy and while Nico didn’t know many men who could look so damn harsh with come in their shorts, Tony was doing a fine job. “I’m the human in this equation. How does this become my fault? Wrong place, wrong time? That’s how you want to play this? Only, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m the one wearing the bite mark, not you and I certainly didn’t bite myself.”

“I wasn’t in my right mind,” Nico tried to explain. “I don’t usually let my animal get away from me like that….”

“And just what type of shifter have I found myself bound to for life; can you tell me that at least?”

His silver fox reminded Nico of the man who trained him at the academy. He was a hard bastard too. “Dragon.”

Tony swallowed hard. “Dragon,” he repeated slowly. “Well, that would explain why my two best detectives don’t even want to be in the office when you’re around. Does this dragon of yours usually run amuck at the drop of a hat? Or was your scene with Special Agent Schubert more personal than professional? He certainly didn’t look dressed for work when he hightailed out of here.”

Shit. Shit. Shit. “Would you like some coffee?” Nico said, suddenly aware of his unwashed state and needing time to get his thoughts together. “Or breakfast? I could cook…er…no,” he amended remembering the state of his cupboards. “Would you like to join me for brunch? Out,” he added in case there was any further confusion.

“I wasn’t aware there was anywhere in town I could eat with a ripped and bloodstained shirt,” Tony said angrily. “Look, I think I’d better go home. My sole purpose for coming here was to explain the lies told to the FBI and the reasons for them. Believe it or not, lying to you was not my intention, but it was the only way my men and I could clear a case and stop a lot of innocents getting killed.”

“I believe you,” Nico said gravely. “I could loan you a shirt if you like.”

“That isn’t my only clothing issue and in your clothes, I’d look like a homeless person. You’re a lot bigger than me.” Tony’s face softened for a moment. Perhaps the mating pull was working both ways. Nico certainly hoped so. “I need time to process this. I didn’t come here to be claimed by someone I barely know. This bite,” Tony sighed. “You’ve effectively ruined both our careers and I need to work out what to do now.”

“I bought this house for us,” Nico offered, his heart plummeting as he realized his mate was walking away from him. “My horde is huge, I can look after us.”

“I’m sure you can,” Tony’s hand on his chest was hot and firm. “But not everything is about money. I need to go. I will come back. Will you be all right?”

“For a little while,” Nico admitted once he realized what Tony was talking about. “A few hours maybe, but our bond is very new….”

“And I don’t want reports of a dragon buzzing my neighborhood,” Tony chuckled. “Give me two hours. Please.” The smile was still there, but Nico knew Tony wasn’t about to be dissuaded from going. “You could get some food in, maybe cook that brunch you mentioned. Somehow, I think our conversation would be best conducted in private.”

Nico knew his mate was right, but his dragon was edgy the moment the handsome man moved out of his arms. “I will be back in two hours,” Tony said over his shoulder as he walked away. “If an emergency crops up, I promise I’ll call.”

If an emergency crops up, I’m hounding your ass, Nico promised himself as Tony left the house. Every instinct screamed at him to follow, but he purposefully moved toward his shower instead. It had been a long morning. A crap morning in a lot of ways, Nico didn’t even want to think what Jack was going to say the next time they met up, but on the plus side, he’d claimed his mate. It didn’t go exactly how he intended but things could be a lot worse.

/~/~/~/~/

Tony’s mind stayed blissfully blank until he saw the state of himself in his bathroom mirror. He didn’t consider himself a stunningly good-looking man; not like Shane or Dimitri, or even Trent for that matter, but his jaw wasn’t saggy and his blue eyes were still clear. His face was hard enough to command respect and if there were more sprinkles of gray than black through his scruff and peppering his short hair, he could live with that. The lines around his eyes weren’t horrifically bad and the bags under them would disappear after a good night’s sleep.

But Tony took a lot of pride in dressing well and the state of his tattered shirt, still splattered with blood shocked him as much as the scabbed tooth marks in his skin. I’ve actually done it. I’m mated. To a dragon. Tony shook his head, his mind filled with the image of Nico’s scales. What does he look like in his shifted form? Is he big? Will he recognize me when he’s on four legs? Will he be on four legs? Tony was the first to admit he knew nothing about dragons. His mom might have shared stories about them when he was very young, but Tony’d grown up a practical man with little time for fantastical stories.

And now I’m mated to one. He sniggered, then slapping his hands on the bathroom sink, he roared with laughter. There might have been a bit of hysteria involved, but Tony went with it anyway. I’m mated to a freaking dragon. My gods. One who looks young enough to be my son. Okay, that sobered him up.

Ignoring his reflection, Tony tore off his shirt. He’d bury that in the trash later. His pants fell on the floor with the same disregard although he grimaced as he tugged his Calvin Kleins from his pubic area. “Damn sticky shit,” he muttered as his underwear went the way of his pants. Stepping into the shower, he braced himself for the cold as he turned the water on. He needed to be clean and couldn’t wait for the water to heat up.

Washing briskly, Tony couldn’t help mentally comparing his body with that of his mate. He’d always thought the shifter men were in a class of their own when it came to looks. Grant, the man his ex-wife was married to was a case in point. The guys making up the pack in Stockton were all the same. It was like they were walking airbrushed pictures; no pimples, love handles or blemishes. Admittedly, Tony hadn’t seen Nico fully naked, but that hairless torso and bulging muscles would be the stuff of fantasies for weeks to come. Nico’s sweat pants hadn’t left a lot to the imagination either, but one thing Tony was certain about. There wasn’t an ounce of fat on his mate’s sculptured body.

Whereas his body on the other hand; Tony frowned as he looked down. He wasn’t bad, for a man over fifty. His belly was solid even if his abs had lost most of their definition. The two love handles sitting above his hip bones weren’t grab material just yet. His legs were still strong, although his ass was soft, but then Tony spent most of his days sitting behind a desk. Dressed, he could hide his flaws, but Nico’s going to want to see you naked.

We’ve got a long way to go before that happens,” Tony informed the bathroom tiles with more strength than he felt. He scrubbed his hair, considered a shave and picked up his razor. There was a part of him that thought Nico would just have to accept him the way he was, but one thing he had in spades was his pride. If he calls me Daddy just once, I’ll punch him.

Chapter Four

Nico checked his watch and resumed pacing the floor. Two hours fifteen minutes. Has he been called into work? Has he changed his mind about being with me? Slapping his head, because one thing he did know about his new mate was Tony was an honorable man, Nico kept on pacing. There was a breakfast casserole warming in the oven. The plastic was gone from the furnishings. Nico opened the windows, letting in the light breeze; the sunlight through the windows creating a checkered quartz pattern on the marble floors. Showered, dressed, Nico was ready, although ready for what was a different story.

He checked his phone for the fiftieth time, but there still nothing. Well, one message. Jack. Sent half an hour earlier. We have to talk, which Nico ignored. He didn’t want to talk to Jack. It’s not as though he could explain in any rational way the things his best friend had seen. He didn’t have time to do the whole “shifters are real” speech. His stomach was in enough knots wondering what he should say to his mate. I had no right claiming him without permission, damn it.

A firm knock at the door saved Nico’s hair from more pulling. Tony looked amazing, freshly showered, his facial hair trimmed and the blue of his shirt highlighting bright eyes. “Are you going to let me in?” Tony asked and Nico detected a note of caution in his mate’s tone.

This house is yours.” He stepped aside, inhaling deeply as Tony brushed past him. Gods, I hope this isn’t going to be a long conversation, Nico thought as he discreetly nudged his cock into a more comfortable position. “If you go through the living room, the kitchen is on the other side of it. The food’s warming and there’s a fresh pot of coffee brewed. I hope you like coffee.”

“I’m a cop, we live on the stuff,” Tony smiled as he walked in the direction Nico indicated, settling himself at the kitchen counter. “I take it you haven’t lived here long?” He asked as Nico bustled about. The plates and cutlery were already out; he just had to serve the casserole.

“I bought it the day we met,” Nico said, aware his cheeks were hot. “I checked your record; you’ve lived in Stockton your whole life so I figured you wouldn’t take kindly to being asked to move too far.”

“You thought right. I have my job,” Tony reminded him. “At least, I did. I’m not sure how long that’s going to last now.”

Nico felt a shaft of guilt, something his dragon didn’t appreciate. Tony was theirs; jobs were inconsequential; at least in his dragon’s way of thinking. But Nico hadn’t lied when he said he’d read Tony’s service record. The man had a long career in law enforcement and had been a highly-decorated officer before being promoted. Having a male partner wasn’t going to make climbing higher any easier.

“Hope you like casserole,” he said, ignoring the concern for now. “I wasn’t sure how long you were going to be, so I made something that could be kept warm in the oven. I didn’t think to ask if you had any food allergies.”

“It looks delicious.” Tony picked up his fork and for a while, the two men focused on their food. Nico was keenly aware of Tony’s every move. The way his mouth moved around the fork, the bob of his Adam’s apple as he swallowed. He wasn’t aware he’d been ignoring his own meal until Tony put down his fork with a sigh.

“Something wrong with yours?” Tony asked with a grin. “Personally, I think you’re a good cook.”

“I had something to eat before you came,” Nico mumbled, throwing a few more mouthfuls down and then pushing his plate away. Fighting his dragon had left him ravenous but now his hunger was for more than food. “We can chat in the living room if you like. Take your coffee through.”

Gods, this is so awkward, Nico thought as he followed Tony into the other room. He’s human. He’s human. He’ll want to talk about stuff. He spared an unkind thought for his sister, Nina who mated with a wolf shifter. He was sure they hadn’t been doing any talking their first week together. In fact, when Nina introduced her mate at a family dinner she didn’t even know his last name.

“I must say, you’re remarkably controlled compared to earlier. I take it your animal half is pleased with the bite and doesn’t have this urge to hide me in the basement?” Tony’s eyes twinkled as he sat on the couch leaving room for Nico.

“Only when other people are around,” Nico muttered sitting beside his mate. Then he saw Tony’s face and added quickly, “not that we would and I’m not even sure this place has a basement.”

“It seems to have everything else,” Tony said, looking around. “Why such a big place? Do you have other people living with you?”

“No, it would just be the two of us…well, when you…you know…when you’re comfortable with being with me.”

Tony nodded but didn’t say anything else. Discomforted by the silence, Nico continued. “I do have quite a big family, well, extended family. There are me and my two sisters, my parents, my grandparents on both sides, uncles, and aunts, nieces and nephews. Cousins – so many cousins. They all live in Europe but when they visit they’ll expect me to house my mate somewhere suitable. The real estate agent didn’t have any castles.”

Chuckling, Tony said, “Well at least there’ll be room when my son comes to visit.”

Son? “You’re married?” There was nothing on Tony’s record about his personal status.

“I was,” Tony laid a hand on Nico’s knee. “It was a long time ago and my son is almost thirty now. My wife and her partner live in Jacobs Lake; her partner’s a wolf shifter as a matter of fact.”

“So, that’s why you didn’t bat an eyelid when I said you were my mate.” Nico breathed a sigh of relief. He wasn’t sure he could contend with a wife in the picture.

“No, although I have to admit I didn’t know about Shane and Dimitri and the others in his pack until a year ago. I just assumed Shane was human like the rest of us. But surely you can see now why I lied to you. I never expected an FBI agent to be a shifter, let alone my mate. I can’t work out why we haven’t met up before.”

Nico wondered about that too, although, thinking back, he’d never had to work with the Stockton police before. The Stockton field office usually handled the day to day stuff. Nico and Jack specialized in serial killer cases and traveled all over the country. Or they did. Nico wasn’t sure of the status of his job now, or if he’d be able to work with Jack again. “You don’t have a run of serial killers, and your closed murder case rate is quite high.”

“Thanks to Shane,” Tony agreed. “But look, you need to let me explain.” Nico listened with half an ear as Tony explained about the four vampires who were draining a human a week; working with the coven to hunt them out and how one of his own former detectives became a target. “Alexi explained why I couldn’t put a vampire in custody, but I had to do something for the five families affected by the killings. It seemed like a simple matter to bring in the FBI because we could trace their movements across state lines. The gang killed more than twenty people in different areas. I didn’t expect them to send another shifter. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry about wasting your and Special Agent Schubert’s time.”

“Not the sort of thing either one of us can put in a report,” Nico agreed. “At least those guys won’t be killing anyone else. I take it they’re all dead?”

Tony nodded, his head down, his fingers lightly drumming on Nico’s thigh. “I was so angry at Alexi when he said they had to be killed. I didn’t care about the rogues but trying to explain to five families, one of them was a mother who left three orphaned children, you know, trying to explain a permanently open case; that we could never bring the killers to justice. It didn’t seem right.”

“It happens more often than you know,” Nico said softly, laying his hand over his mate’s. “But we hide our existence for a reason. My kind, centuries ago, we were almost hunted to extinction and the wolf shifters in Europe didn’t fare much better.”

The two men sat in silence for a long moment, Nico comforted and aroused by the presence of his mate. For two long weeks, he’d fought the urge to claim the man, and then bam, he did it anyway. But he wanted so much more.

“Did Special Agent Schubert see…did Jack see you as I saw you when he left this morning?” Tony asked quietly.

“He saw enough.” Nico fidgeted on his seat and then honesty won out. “Jack and I have been in a relationship for years. Always casual, no strings, at least on my part. But he knew something was up with me when I met you and after I told him not to come around last night, he turned up on my doorstep this morning. He tried to get intimate with me, and my dragon decided to make an appearance. I don’t know how much he saw, but my teeth were dropped and my eyes had turned.”

“Don’t forget the scales,” Tony said with a small smile. “They’re a little hard to miss.”

Yeah, like Nico was going to forget that. He still hadn’t got a clue what he was going to tell his oldest friend.

“It sounds as though you have some old relationships to put to rest before you take up with me, though, don’t you think?”

What? No,” Nico said strongly, turning so he could face his mate. “I haven’t touched him since I met you; he was a friend with benefits, that’s all. I’m not going to stop being friends with him; I work with him for fuck’s sake.” Well, I do at the moment, but Nico’s thoughts were derailed by Tony’s hardened eyes.

“And you expect me to accept you working with him when I know you’ve been screwing him for years? How are you going to feel when I take you up north to visit my ex-wife?”

“You still visit her? And her mate’s okay with that?” Nico’s dragon wasn’t okay even thinking about it. He had no wish to see the woman his mate married and had been intimate with even if it was in the past.

“She was pregnant with my son when she left me; of course, I still visit her and her new family. How else was I going to see my son?” Tony’s jaw was hard and his lips thinned. “At least she doesn’t try and get intimate with me when I do go up there. We have a perfectly civil friendship – one where the clothes stay on.”

Nico’s mouth dropped open and he quickly closed it again. He wasn’t sure what he could say. There was pain in Tony’s eyes; pain that soured his scent slightly and Nico tried to imagine what it must have been like for Tony all those years ago, to be expecting a child and then lose him and his wife; all because of a shifter.

“I’m sorry,” he said at last. “That must have been really hard on you, to lose your wife like that to a shifter. I wouldn’t be comfortable visiting, you are right. But you know you can trust me, right? To be faithful to you.”

“Does that apply to dragons? I mean how the hell would I know?” Tony got up, his feet tracing the same steps Nico took before he arrived. “Grant told me wolves couldn’t stray when he gave me the shifters are real speech. I know of four other matings, no, sorry, make that five and yeah, none of them stray. But those men are gorgeous, young; they have hugely long lives to enjoy each other. You got stuck with an old man and how can I expect you to stay faithful to me when I’m in my sixties, seventies or even eighties. I’ll look like a wrinkled prune while you’ll look like my grandson.”

“You won’t age,” Nico said quietly, not knowing enough about his mate to understand what was upsetting him.

“I’m human!” Tony yelled, flinging his arms in the air. “Of course, I’m going to fucking age. Death and taxes, the only two things in life we can rely on. I’m already going gray, I can’t see my abs anymore, my ass is getting soft and it’s only a matter of time before it droops. And yet you,” Tony pointed at him. “Look at you. You’re fucking perfect and knowing what I do about shifters, you’ll probably look like this in another hundred years. Whereas me, I’ll be dead. What are you going to do then? Now we’re mated, won’t that kill you too? How could you be so stupid as to throw your life away over an old wreck like me?”

Tony’s anguished face was just too much for Nico. He stood up, quickly pulling Tony into his arms, refusing to let go even when Tony struggled. “You won’t age,” he said firmly. “From the moment I bit you, you stopped aging. You’ll get stronger, move faster, your senses will be enhanced. The longer we’re together, the less human you’ll be. You’ll still look the same, but you’ll be so much more.”

Tony stilled in his arms. “What if I get sick? My dad had a heart attack and my mom died of cancer. They’re both hereditary conditions.”

“You won’t ever get sick.”

“But if I die, if someone shoots me, stabs me, or I get hit by a car…?”

“Nothing short of decapitation will kill you,” Nico replied. “Same as with me. The only way to kill a dragon is to chop off his head. Anything else we can heal from.”

“And you’re not going to mind spending the next hundred years with someone who looks old enough to be your father? Because people will talk.”

“I don’t care what other people think. I never have and I never will.” Nico didn’t feel it was necessary to mention he was already over a thousand years old, or that he expected to live a damn sight longer. Tony needed reassurance, not an information overload.

“Special Agent Schubert is a damn fine looking man. I bet he can get it up more than once a night.” Tony’s arms snaked around Nico’s torso and Nico clamped his teeth together to stop him moaning out loud.

“So will you now you’re mated,” he said instead. He really didn’t want to think about Jack or the talk he still had to have with his friend. Not with his mate’s body fitting perfectly against his and the scent of arousal thickening the air.

“Is it always like this?”

Nico had to stop and think what Tony meant for a moment, but when it clicked, he grinned. “We’ll be like horny rabbits all the time.”

Tony chortled, but his face was tipped up and Nico was never one to turn down such a delicious invitation. His groan rumbling from his mouth, he bent slightly and took his first taste.

Chapter Five

Embarrassed about his mini tantrum, Tony was ready to do anything to forget it and if that meant bedding the delectable Special Agent Draig, then for once in his life he was going to throw caution out the window and go for it. He couldn’t remember the last time he had a male body pressed urgently against his. He’d definitely never been the smaller person in his previous encounters with men or women, but there was something freeing about being in Nico’s arms.

Strong arms, capable hands…gods, such capable hands. Tony let his body relax as the hand on his head tilted him just so; while the one on his ass ground their bodies together, letting Tony know exactly what Nico’s intentions were. Their clothes were nothing but a nuisance. Tony wanted to touch the skin he’d only seen, run his hands over Nico’s muscled torso and fucking revel in the fact that body belonged to him.

This isn’t a hookup. The thought hit him like a thunderbolt and maybe Nico had the same idea because he pulled his head back sharply and suddenly Tony found his feet off the floor.

“We need a room; it has a new bed in it, I promise, but I’m not taking you on this fucking marble,” Nico explained gruffly as he strode through the cavernous living room and headed up the sweeping staircase.

I feel just like Scarlett O’Hara, Tony lowered his head and stifled his chuckles. He wasn’t used to being carried around, but he’d allow it just once given the circumstances. The power coming from his dragon was intoxicating and Tony resisted nuzzling the hard pectoral muscles under his cheek. I don’t nuzzle, I won’t nuzzle, oh thank god, a mattress.


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